Brigadier General Samuel B. Griffith II



Retired Brigadier General Samuel B. Griffith II, a noted author, lecturer, and Sinologue, died unexpectedly 27 March 1983 in Newport, Rhode Island.  He was born 31 May 1906, in Lewiston, Pennsylvania. Upon graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1929, he accepted a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. Prior to World War II, he took part in the Second Nicaraguan Campaign, and served in China, Cuba, and England. During his first tour of duty in China, he was a language officer at the American Embassy in Peiping. During World War II, following a period observing British commando training in England and Scotland, he returned to the 1st Marine Division and served as executive officer and later commander of the 1st Raider Battalion on Guadalcanal, and executive officer of the 1st Raider Regiment in operations on New Georgia. He earned the Navy Cross on Guadalcanal in September 1942 for “extreme heroism and courageous devotion to duty” during the fighting near the Matanikau River. During this action, General Griffith suffered wounds for which he was awarded the Purple Heart. For his exploits in July in New Georgia, he was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross.

After participating in the post-World War II occupation of North China, where he commanded the 3d Marines and later the U.S. Marine Forces in Tsingtao, he was a student and then a faculty member at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport from 1947 to 1950. From 1951 to 1952, he was Chief of Staff, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, and from 1953 to 1956, General Griffith was on the staff of the U.S. Commander in Chief, Europe. He retired from the Marine Corps in 1956, after completing more than 25 years of active service.

Following his retirement, General Griffith entered Oxford University (New College) and was awarded his D.Phil. in Chinese Military History in 1961. With an interest in China and the Chinese language dating back to pre-World War II days, he translated Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in 1963 and Mao Tse-tung’s On Guerrilla War in 1978. He also wrote the definitive The Battle for Guadalcanal, The Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and his last major work was In Defense of the Public Liberty, a book concerned with the Revolutionary War. He was a Research Fellow, China Study, at the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Institute for Defense Studies in London. General Griffith published widely in such journals as New Yorker, Saturday Evening Post, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Town and Country, Marine Corps Gazette, and Foreign Affairs. He has also lectured widely at such establishments as the Armed Forces Staff College, United States Military Academy, Foreign Policy Association, Marine Corps Schools, among other places. General Griffith was a life member of the 1st Marine Raider Association and the 1st Marine Division Association.